Making a Pick Up in Great Barrington

What a weekend, huh? I hope you had plenty of time outdoors soaking in that Vitamin D in which we upstaters are generally deficient. As for me, I intentionally left my last weekend before the end of the school year open for any last minute obligations and was rewarded for my lack of commitments with a beautiful day on Saturday with no real plans.

A drive to the Berkshires to take care of an errand and grab some lunch seemed the ideal way to enjoy summer’s first weekend day.

So, off we went!

But first, and be honest, when I said “Massachusetts” and “pickup” in the same sentence, what was your first thought? Did you immediately assume the trip involved a visit to the marijuana dispensary? Isn’t it amazing how quickly driving over to the Berkshires has come to mean something more than a cultural experience at Tanglewood or the Norman Rockwell Museum?!?

In the interest of full disclosure, let me to clarify: What we were tasked with picking up was actually a “who” – a friend’s mother who was due to attend a late afternoon party back in Albany – not anything occasionally described as “mother’s little helper.”

Now, back to lunch. I’ve been craving Mediterrean cuisine recently. I think maybe I’m subconsciously trying to prep my palate for an upcoming trip to Greece. (More on that in a future post.) Anyway, it has been a good number of years since I’ve been to Great Barrington, and I really had no idea where to eat.

Fortunately, Yelp had some ideas and we seemed to be in a good spot with a few nearby options. By virtue of the number of reviews and proximity, Naji’s was our choice and happily, it was a good one.

We arrived a bit after the typical lunch hour and selected seats on the partially covered patio. There were a few tables seated, and I eyed the impressive looking watermelon salad that nearby diners were enjoying. After reading the menu, we opted for two 3-choice sampler plates in an attempt to try as many different dishes as possible. Our super nice and capable server suggested we instead go with the 6-choice sampler which came with a glass of wine for each of us, for a total of $25.

That’s not a typo – $25.

So, what did we get? The Mazza Combo platter with portions of the following: Hummus, Tabouli, Baba Ghanouj, Vegetarian Grape Leaves, Marinated Beet Salad and Falafel all served with pita and the aforementioned glasses of house wine.

I will never claim to be an expert in this cuisine, but I can tell you that every bite I took was terrific. The hummus was smooth and topped by a tiny pool of delicious olive oil, while the tabouli made me want to come home and immediately plant mint and parsley so I could attempt to replicate the clean flavors of this dish.

The grape leaves were loosely wrapped little cigars of rice studded with finely chopped vegetables and parsley and the perfect balance of olive oil and lemon. The beet salad consisted of tender, but not mushy, thinly sliced beets paired with red onions in a simple olive oil based dressing and I could imagine eating it with any and all meals of the day.

While each of the dishes were well prepared and delicious, the two that were on a whole new level were the baba ghanouj and falafel.

The first, a creamy eggplant based purée with tahini, had a smoky quality that I’ve never before experienced. There was no bitterness whatsoever, and the consistency was smooth but not overly processed. I made use of my pita to shamelessly clean the bowl in which it had been served.

What can you say about falafel, right? Wrong! The three balls we were served were unlike any I’ve ever had before due to the fine, yet crunchy, “crust” that adhered to the outside of each one. Biting through it was a toothsome experience that yielded to a perfectly seasoned, and soft in comparison, center. These were absolutely dynamite.

Completely satiated, we continued on our way, pausing to glance at the long line across the street at Theory Wellness.

If you decide to make the trip to Great Barrington yourself, and you get a little hungry, keep in mind two things – Naji’s serves lunch and dinner seven days a week and Theory Wellness offers online ordering to avoid queue.

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